The Brilliant Opportunity That Mars Needs Moms Offers Disney

Via: Mayerson on Animation

At this point, we should have all read the headlines and the aftermath of what appears to be one of the biggest flops in recent years. However, from what I have read, it would appear that things are mostly focused on the rather unnerving presence of the characters in the uncanny valley more-so than any other aspect of the movie. Rotten Tomatoes has a good smattering of both sides. It seems the story is actually pretty decent and overall, it’s not the worst film ever released. It’s just the characters are so darn fugly.

With the prospect of writing off somewhere in the region of $150 million or more, there would appear to be very few options open to the studio for this rejected project.

Such a statement is true, if looked at in the traditional sense of release windows, DVD sales, cable TV rights and so forth (yeah, broadcast networks figure in ‘so forth’ although they would take the place of cable in Europe).

What if say, Disney looked at this ‘failure’ as an opportunity? “Impossible!” I hear you say. Ah, but such failure can often force companies to experiment and explore new methods of revenue.

For example, the film’s already lost money at the cinema, and is unlikely to reap back its cost in DVD sales either. Would you not agree that this represents a great opportunity for Disney to experiment with online streaming? No, not the kind it does already, but with real, honest-to-goodness online streaming, where everyone can watch and share without restriction?

The film’s already lost money so that is now a sunk cost, they’ll never get that back, but they can focus on exposure. Again, from what I’ve read, the film isn’t as bad as it’s made out to be. Perhaps it’s just because the film’s core audience has not been found yet.

Such an experiment is unlikely to cost them much and it would be useful in allowing the company to figure out where revenue can be made online. They could even play around with things. Like say, “watch Mars Needs Moms online and earn the chance to purchase a signed poster!” or something like that. There are plenty of ways of offering incentives to fans and sadly, a conglomerate like Disney has long since lost the knack of seeking out and exploiting such revenues.

Has Pixar Jumped The Shark With The Posters For Cars 2?

Via: The Animation Blog

Some say the bigger question is whether Pixar will jump the shark with Cars 2 itself, but it is still too early to tell. However, when it comes to the promotional posters, I think they’ve already done it.

The reason is simple, the posters are rather lackluster in overall design. Don’t get me wrong, they look nice, but if you’re going to ape classic Grand Prix posters, you might as well do it right.

As far as I know, Cars 2 involves a world-wide race of some sort, so it would seem like a great idea to release a few posters featuring the characters in famous cities around the world, right? Yes, of course. Pixar has been here before with the Wall-E and UP teaser posters (created by Eric Tan) that it released before those films hit the cinemas. Personally, I think they’re a great idea to drum up support from the fans and to promote the film in a slightly different and off-beat manner.

So far they has succeeded. The posters for Wall-E had a kind of quirky, Googie-like charm to them and the UP posters relied heavily on the old travel ads of the past to make light of the film’s plot.

However, when it comes to Cars 2, I think they’ve missed the mark only slightly. The main elements are certainly there. The car at the forefront, the background definitely waaay in the back. There’s no chance of mistaking where the action is or what is going on.

The main problem that I can see, though, is the character themselves. It’s just them! Sure there are a few cars in the background racing along, but for the most part, it is just a single character with a few speed lines drawn in to show that they are supposed to be moving.

How does that compare with a real Grand Prix poster? Check out the samples below.

Via: Wikipedia

Via: AllPosters.com

A race to the finish line? A duel to the death? I certainly think so. There is so much more action portrayed, so much more excitement! I want to see that Grand Prix! Just be thankful I can’t find the poster where the car literally has flames coming out the back of it!

So you see why I think the Cars 2 posters are a bit tame. They allude to the great posters of the past, but they are, at best, a timid recreation with none of the excitement and drama of the real thing. Cars 2, by the sounds of things, could certainly have benefited from a harder edge but perhaps that was vetoed by someone along the line.

So how far off are they? Check out this poster for the antique Monaco Grand Prix held last year. A thoroughly modern poster but with all the classic elements of the genuine article. It can be done.

What If Disney Had Produced Pixar Sequels Instead?

Via: Bob & Rob

The answer may be found over on the blog of Bob & Rob, otherwise known as Bob Hilgenburg and Rob Muir, screenwriting duo.The image above is from their version of Toy Story 3.

They’re recently been posting some of their work from what was known as Circle 7 over on their blog. Don’t know what that is? Never mind, I didn’t either until recently. Basically, Circle 7 was set up by Disney after their relationship with Pixar began to go south with the goal of producing sequels to the five Pixar films released under the original agreement of which Disney owned he rights to. Circle 7 was shuttered when Disney bought Pixar and was quickly swept under the rug as if it had never happened.

It is only now that we are starting to see some fragments of what could have been. While there are only stills and a short animatic-esque sequence to be had, you can piece together the jigsaw puzzle to come up with a rough idea of what things could have looked like.

Having said that, it is impossible to tell how these films would have turned out like. It’s quite possible they could have been good, like the recent Tinkerbell films, or they could have gone the other direction, as in the many, many sequels to Aladdin.

Either way, it seems that Pixar has been handed the reigns for producing the sequels now, as if to give them a sheen of authenticity and pedigree. I remain to be convinced however.

David OReilly’s Freudian Review of Tangled

Disclaimer: I don’t normally post stuff that isn’t suitable for all ages but this is a slight exception. Exercise restraint if you are easily offended!

Yesterday (Thursday), in an amusing hour and a half, David OReilly (the Irish fella that has a wicked sense of humour, and who made these films) watched Tangled. He tweeted his thoughts as follows:

http://twitter.com/davidoreilly/status/43354415456976897

http://twitter.com/davidoreilly/status/43356373060292609

http://twitter.com/davidoreilly/status/43358448968155136

http://twitter.com/davidoreilly/status/43363060357926912

http://twitter.com/davidoreilly/status/43367503044419584

http://twitter.com/davidoreilly/status/43386156641038336

Lastly his recommendation:

http://twitter.com/davidoreilly/status/43388148054626304

Technological Advances in Cinema: The Similarities Between Fantasia and 3-D

Via: Trond Lossius (Norwegian sound guy)

Yes, I know, 3-D, ugh,it almost makes you want to puke just thinking about it doesn’t it? It does have its proponents though, and it seems that there is no stopping Hollywood in it’s unending quest to convince us that 3-D really is the latest and greatest advance in cinema technology (again).

Yesterday I was listening to the Fantasia soundtrack, which is really just a collection of the likes of The Sorcerer’s Apprentice with classical pieces thrown in between, and it struck me just how badly they wanted people to realise that they were listening to a stereo, yes, stereo recording.

In this day and age, we take stereo for granted, it’s second nature, heck, I can listen to stereo music on my phone! Back then of course, people could still remember when Al Jolson told them that movies could have sound, so it was still a relatively new phenomenon.

So Fantasia was the first film to be released with stereo sound that was so new, there was no method for actually playing it in many cinemas, so a new system, called Fantasound was created but only installed in a couple of the large picture houses.

However, it is only on listening to the original, remastered score that you realise that the mixing is honestly, almost atrocious. Sounds pop up all over the place with little regard to their location in the orchestra. Today, recordings are mixed very much faithfully to the original recording session. In Fantasia, it looks like they hadn’t figured that out yet, so sounds whizz back and forth from one ear to the other so often that it nearly makes you dizzy.

Which is interesting because, you’d would almost swear that the sound engineers were trying to pound us over the head with the fact that the recording is in stereo. It’s as if they decided to use the extremes of their new discovery to tell us in a not-so-subtle way that we have two ears.

That sounds kinda familiar doesn’t it? What else do we have two of? Oh yeah, eyes! Is there a way of seeing two images with them as well? Why yes, yes there is! it’s called 3-D! OMG!!!! [The preceding paragraph may have contained sarcasm]

Can you think of any films today that seem to trumpet 3-D imagery as if it’s the latest and greatest thing ever invented? I’m sure you can, they’re all at it these days. The question is, why do they see fit to beat us over the head with the achievement when in reality, like Fantasia, it ends up being a whitewash of 3-D effects that are in reality, gimmicks that add nothing to the film.

With Fantasia, Walt Disney was not merely trying to beat it into everyone’s skull that his film had stereo, rather that was just part of his constant searching for the next technological advancement. Stereo in films is taken for granted now, heck, surround sound is taken almost mandatory for cinemas at this point.

The point is that the sound in films today is used in much more subtle ways than in Fantasia and it’s high time 3-D was handled the same way. There is no need to parade it from the rooftops. At this point, plenty of people have seen a 3-D films and are aware of it’s benefits and limitations, why not use 3-D in the way it is supposed to, add depth to every shot, not just the one of the missile flying towards the audience.

Why Did Disney Stop Making TV Shows Based on Their Films?

Via: Wikipedia

Whatever happened to all the TV series’ that Disney used to put out after a theatrical film was released? Is it a practise that died off with the turn of the century? It’s hard to tell, but the untimely death of the traditional animation unit may have been something to do with it.

The fact occurred to me this morning as I was scrambling around for something to write about. My postulation is that they simply don’t make the kind of films that lend themselves easily to such treatment any more. For one, CGI is now king, and creating a CGI TV series can be much, much harder than a traditionally animated one, especially if you are geared up and staffed for the latter.

Disney has decided that it either isn’t worthwhile creating a CGI TV show, or that the kind of movies they have put out recently do not lend themselves easily to the concept (read: CGI). Films like Chicken Little, Bolt and The Princess and the Frog are not quite flexible enough to be capable of the tweaks that are necessary for the small box. Tangled has a similar problem, but that could be overcome in a way not unlike The Genie in Aladdin. I am quite certain that the closure of the traditional animation department also contributed to the end of such programmes.

As much as I abhor the practice and its nagging habit of denying the place of an original, creator-driven show, you can’t deny that the quality of the Disney movie-shows was decently high, both animation and story-wise. It also kept costs that wee bit lower and the studio was able to eliminate the risk of a series if they used a successful film that came with a ready-made audience.

I am not advocating a return to the practise, I’m just pointing out that it did provide some benefits to the animation industry as a whole. DreamWorks must have recognized this as they have taken up the mantle in recent times, with shows based on Madagascar 2, How to Train Your Dragon and Kung Fu Panda. Of course, DreamWorks is an independent studio, so there is much more pressure on them to maximize their creations to the hilt and TV can be a very lucrative way of extending the life of your films.

As I’ve mentioned before, ideally, theatrical films would be much easier to make and to predict the performance of if they were based on a TV show. SpongeBob did it to great success so why can’t someone else replicate the same? That is something studios should focus even more on in this day and age.

Anomaly Appraisal: Tangled

Note: This is pretty long (1600+ words) analysis of the film. if you’re looking for a much shorter, concise critical review, head on over here to read my friend Emmett’s blog for his thoughts.

Yesterday I treated you all to a review of the film that was written by my girlfriend who has much superior writing skills to myself. Today, you are treated to my poorly worded yet strangely compelling one!

Various other reviews have focused extensively on the film’s troubled gestation; the sidelining of Glen Keane, the re-working of the script, the re-titling of the whole thing, etc, etc. Naturally there was a lot of concern among animation folks and fans that the resulting film would either be a mishmash of styles or a complete load of garbage that was simply pushed out in order to recoup at least some of the costs the project has swallowed.

Thankfully, Tangled is far from the worst case scenario, after all, Disney has put out far inferior films that were completed without any production hiccups. The only caveat to this review is that the projector failed during the screening and we missed approximately 5 minutes or so of footage, but overall, i don’t think it affected my opinion of the film, despite what I tweeted at the time.

So, without further adieu, here’s my comprehensive review of Disney’s Tangled.

The overall plot of the film is a welcome deviation from the traditional fairytale. Sure, Disney has always deviated a little bit from the established story, but in this case, it is almost a re-telling of the classic, which, in fact, works in the films favour in that it has allowed it to follow a different path.

Not necessarily a better path mind you, sadly the writers fell back on the old ‘magic’ chestnut with Rapunzel’s hair. A plot device such as that can be a great boon to a story (as every Harry Potter fan will know) but when it takes a sideline to the main plot, it must be used carefully to avoid appearing like a prop that the writers leaned on when they got into a tight spot with the story. Sadly, this is the case with Tangled, there was one scene in particular (that I will not mention here) that could easily have been resolved without the use of magic. While the scene may work well with kids, as an adult, I could see the resolution the second it began. It does not necessarily smack of laziness, but it does make me wonder why the writers took the easy way out. Perhaps the director’s commentary will provide an answer.

On the whole, the plot is fluid, with an imperceptible transition between the two protagonists backgrounds until the ultimate, if painful, introduction in the tower. Once this has occurred, the tale takes on the traditional film outline with the two characters attempting to achieve a goal while at the same time avoiding the evil Mother Gethals and Maximus the Horse. They get into some adventures, have a laugh here and there, engage in some thrilling action before the ultimate climactic conclusion to the entire endeavor.

What Tangled excels at is the way it has managed to weave modern pop-culture references into the tapestry of the fairytale. Sure they will date over time and in 10 years we may well wonder why on earth they seemed like a good idea at the time, but for right now, they’re good for an enjoyable laugh.

The story as a whole is appreciatively compelling enough to warrant a viewing, although it is the animation where the film really shines.

As smothered in 21st Century CGi as it is, Tangled is rooted firmly in the 2-D past of the Disney films of yore. Presumably that was the aim from the beginning, and thankfully it seems that the team has pulled it off in remarkable fashion. Yes, the colours are eye-popping, although they are well within the range of both the transcendent kaleidoscope that is Yellow Submarine and the sugar rush that is Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs.

The quality of the animation itself is nothing short of amazing. There is just the right amount of quality and comedy that is often so hard to get right. It is a real shame that none of the animators on this film have been highlighted for the individual achievement categories at the upcoming Annie Awards. I think that Tangled is the first movie to make a significant advancement in the field of human CGI animation since The Incredibles.

I would have to say that the direction was overall OK, there’s nothing outstanding about it although the cinematography is astonishing. The richness and expanse of the sets are apparent throughout the film, especially the sweeping camera movements over the castle.

When it comes down to it, however, the one thing that must be perfect (at least for me) is the characters. In Tangled we have a rarity in a Disney film in that there is no outright bad guy. Sure, Mother Gothels has her own selfish agenda, but she is quite unlike, say, Jafar, who has no qualms about outright killing Aladdin. Throughout the film she is portrayed as a vain woman who is also capable of incredibly conniving deeds and straight up lying in order to maintain the status quo. Overall, I found her to be an acceptable opponent for our heroes although her ultimate demise left much to be desired. Again, like the earlier scene, it was far to easy to spot it coming and the way it finished left me feeling somewhat cheated as the result was not what I expected. it would have been better to have left it to my own imagination like every other Disney death.

The comic relief characters, namely Maximus the Horse and Pascal the Chameleon, are your usual Disney characters. Maximus got plenty of laughs and is perhaps the standout character from the film. he is inventive, determined and extremely loyal.

 

Onto our male antagonist, Flynn Rider. In fairness, I liked this guy a lot better before I discovered that the guy doing his voice is Chuck from NBC’s Chuck. Nothing against the guy, but again, it seems like a ‘celebrity’ was found to fit the character rather than a professional voice-actor. In the end, Levi’s performance is fine in that there are no glaring failings.

The character of Flynn Rider himself is an interesting one. Here is this dreamer guy who just happens to be a thief for a living. While the film tries to imbue him with this sense of deep-down righteousness, it takes a long time in the film for this to become apparent. he has a sense of truth about him, even if he does not immediately display it.

As for our main protagonist, I’m afraid there is not much to say that hasn’t already been said. Yes, she is your typical female teenager. She can be whiny, obnoxious, prone to mood swings and unsure of herself although again, by the end of the film, she has become a much stronger person.

I regret to report that she still displays a lot of the usual characteristics of other Disney ‘princesses’. Some have decried the fact that she ‘needs’ a man to rescue here and provide her with a fair amount of her eventual happiness. While this does not necessarily cripple the film, it is disheartening to know that Tangled fails to strike out on its own. I can understand that deviating from the established formula can be incredibly risky, but at this point in time, not doing so can certainly undermine any critical credibility that has been built up.

Interestingly enough, I did not hear Rapunzel’s name mentioned until well into the film. Was this intentional? I’m not sure, but it did make her a somewhat mysterious character for a good chunk of the film, or maybe I missed when it was said waaaay at the beginning.

Naturally, the hair plays a large part in the film, being used as a major plot device. It does not dominate Rapunzel’s character entirely, but it does heavily influence it for the majority of the film. Only at the end can it be said that she truly breaks free from it and we,as an audience, can visualize what she is like as a real person. Such a circumstance is not unexpected, the film is, after all, based on the whole concept of the hair to begin with.

As typical as the film is with the love theme, it is nice to see a character have to come to terms with what it actually means. Plenty of other Disney films have been based on the premise that the girl simply falls in love. Here, Rapunzel clearly has to discover what it is mean to fall in love with someone. Flynn provides the suitable candidate and the scenes where Rapunzel slowly learns the pitfalls and rewards that come along with love are certainly heart-warming.

Overall, I liked Tangled as an entertaining film. I naturally do not consider it to be one of the greatest Disney films, not by a long shot. However, in light of the film’s rocky development it certainly exceeds the standard Hollywood fare. I can only imagine if Glen Kean’s original vision had been followed what I would be writing about today. From what I understand, we would have been watching a much darker, rendition of the tale that may well have provided a more robust and distinct storyline.

There’s no point contemplating what might have been though, perhaps with the second flick to come out of the venerable studio under the watchful eye of John Lasseter we may see the stunning return to form we have all hoped for these past few years. Until then, Tangled will do just fine.

Where Have All the Writers Gone: A Tangled Review

Editorial note: This is the first of two reviews I will be posting for Tangled. It is written by my girlfriend, Alicia, who came away from the film with some pretty strong opinions. I will be posting my review tomorrow. Please note that there are spoilers aplenty below.

Having gown up on Disney films, perhaps I hold them to higher standard. By now, we all know that Disney, more often than not, has good luck sticking to a relatively standard plot equation; though a little trite, I am generally okay with this. A female character, human or animal, usually privileged in some way, encounters an unlikely male character, usually less privileged in some way (every so often the role of privilege may reverse). They form a gradual bond while entangled (no pun intended) in an adventure containing a few musical interludes, and fall in love in the end. We see this in Beauty and the Beast, The Lion King, Pocahontas, Cinderella, etc.

Tangled, while it has all of the traditional makings of a classic Disney movie, lacks a definitive twist of originality to captivate an audience already familiar with this timeworn plot sequence. A Repunzel theme certainly had potential, but Disney apparently forgot to hire writers…oops. The characters were underdeveloped, the verbal exchanges were banal and anticipated at best, and the jokes fell short. Not one scene or sequence of events went by unpredicted. I hate to be a spoiler (but trust me you would have seen this coming) the one scene I simply will never be able to forgive finds Repunzel and Flynn Ryder about to drown in a cave filling with water because it is to dark to find a way out. We suffer though about 3 to 5 minutes of unachieved “suspense” while Repunzel conveniently forgets that her magic hair glows. Surprise! She blandly remembers (never would have guess it…) and they make a lackluster exit from the cave. Though the film’s contentt began to improve towards the end, the film lacked an ounce of true drama that could fully engross the viewer.

Furthermore, while I am generally a sucker for musical sequences Tangled’s songs left much to be desired. A properly done musical sequence in an animated film generally flows so well with the film and/or plot that you do not notice that it is different from the rest of the film. While watching Aladdin, for instance, we do not question why he is singing while running from the guards or riding the magic carpet. We just accept it. In Tangled, however, the songs are forced and the audience pays the price. The tunes aren’t catchy, the words aren’t memorable, and every time a character begins singing the viewer is drawn away from what is actually occurring in the film and becomes cognizant of the fact that singing in such situations is unnatural. I found that the CGI artwork further enhanced this problem. It’s a case of the uncanny valley. The more realistically the characters resemble the human form, the less realistic and more imposturous they seem, as they will never truly be an actual human form; just one more factor distracting me from an already weak storyline.

But, alas there was one glimmer hope…the closing credits (and not because it meant that I could leave). The artwork during the credits was amazing! It was a throwback to a more traditional style that did not go unappreciated, truly beautiful. If only the full film was drawn in this manner, I may have been willing to overlook some of the plot’s shortcomings.

All in all I found Tangled to be disappointing an uninspiring. It did not live up to what it could have/should have been. As such, I would like to close with a note to an old friend:

Dear Disney,

Please stop resting on your laurels and attempt to engage your audience. I liked you once. Maybe it could happen again.

Sincerely,

Alicia

What if Pixar Made the Next Fantastia?

The other day, I had a bit of a back and forth conversation on Twitter with Mr Sam Levine about Fantasia, in which he mentioned pitching a sequence featuring Gustav Holst’s suite “The Planets”. Afterwards it got me thinking about the whole concept of Fantasia and why it remains so popular even after all these years.

My personal opinion is that it epitomises the best of animation as an expressive artform. Now I don’t meant to say it has the best animation, that’s a statement that requires some serious research and evidence to back up, which I don’t have the time for today. What I mean is that the music forms the basis on which the animation is based, not the other way around, which is the way most films are scored these days. The result is a wonderfully complex series of sequences in which the animator is allowed a fair amount of creative license that is used to great effect. Does dialogue distract from the animation? Watch any animated show/film/etc with the sound off. Do you pay more attention to the character’s movements? I bet you do.

With the thought of seeing the film for the first time in a few years (since it’s coming out on DVD) as well as seeing Fantasia 2000 for the first time, it got me thinking: What if Pixar made the next Fantasia?

We all know that Pixar makes good movies (I know it too, in difference to my recent comments over on Cartoon Brew) and while their writing team has been given a ton of credit for their slate of films, the animation crew seems to be in their shadow to a certain extent. A film like Fantasia would be a wonderful opportunity to give them a chance to flex their creative muscles.

In comparison, Disney was at a similar stage when he made the original. Here he was, an established animation studio that had won critical and commercial success who was looking for a vehicle to showcase the latest in technology, which at the time included stereo sound and technicolour (yes, that had been around for almost a decade but I dare you to name more than a few, colour, World War II films).

Does Pixar need a film to showcase all their creative skills? No, not really, they already do that in almost every film they release. Would I still like to see them do it? Absolutely! CGI is in desperate need of something to show of the animation itself and not just the design or the backgrounds.

The realities of the movie business today mean that a Pixar Fantastia is unlikely to happen, which is a wee bit of a shame really, since the original is still immensely popular. I would not, however, rule it out altogether.

A Scary Dream I Had the Other Night

Via: Stuff We Like.com

Not the kind of blood-curdling, shivers down the spine stuff you understand, Hallowe’en is over for another year after all, but scary nonetheless. In it, I was in a film, a rather peculiar film in that it was a lice-action/CGI hybrid version of that classic Disney cartoon, DuckTales.

Yes, you read that correctly. How it came about, I do not know, although I sure hope it is not a premonition of some kind that is a window into the future. As an animation fellow, that would be unthinkable, a crime against humanity even!

Well, since then, I’ve been pondering the whole thing on and off and I’ve come to the conclusion that such a feature may well be within the realm of possibility for the foreseeable future for a number of reasons.

Firstly, Uncle Scrooge is one of Disney’s most successful characters (he’s had his own comic since the 50s after all). I could probably still recall the many, many comics I read as a kid at the kitchen table as I ate my breakfast and supper. The original stories by Carl Barks and the more recent stuff by Don Rosa continue to attract fans the world over. So it is safe to say that the character is far from being hung out to dry.

Secondly, such a film would not be the first time that Disney has capitalized on the character or universe. The TV series DuckTales was, for the most part, the adaptation for animation of some of Barks original stories. The series was massively popular and gave rise to a sequel in the form of Darkwing Duck.

What set DuckTales apart from other shows was the cinematic quality of the animation. So much so, that when a theatrical film was released (The Treasure of the Lost Lamp) the difference in quality was imperceptible to my untrained (at the time) eyes.

That film, apparently didn’t fare too well at the box office, which was a shame but not entirely unexpected. If I had to suspect a reason it’s that not too many adults watched the show, and thus were not as familiar with it as they could have been. By comparison, SpongeBob Squarepants had a pretty large adult following (including both parents and trendy college students) by the time a theatrical film was released. This ensured that it had a significantly larger potential audience than if it were just kids and their parents.

So, why would now (i.e. within the next few years) be a good time for a new film?

Weeeeeell, anybody who watched the original show is probably in their mid to late-20s with the cut-off being 30 years old, for the most part. With that in mid, they’re probably starting to get married and having a few kids. As humans, we’re suckers for nostalgia, why else would they play classic rock and 80s synth-pop on the radio?

There’s a good chance that since all the original viewers have grown up and now have kids of their own, they will be hungry for some link to their youth. A DuckTales film would be perfect and with the recent rash of live-action/CGI movies, it would fit the glove quite nicely for such a production.

I write all this in a somewhat sarcastic manner as I believe such a movie would be most likely horrendous. Why on earth I dreamt it in the first place is beyond me and while I would like to see some new animation from the Duck universe, a live-action/CGI film is certainly not on my list of possible ideas.

The Wall Street Journal on The War Between Disney and Nickelodeon Over Pre-Schoolers

Thanks to Cathal Gaffney for tweeting this interesting article from the Wall Street Journal. You might want to grab a cup of tea (or coffee) before you read it. I’ll wait.

Back? OK, good.

The point of the article is that Disney and Nickelodeon differ on how they think pre-school children should be programmed for. Nick believes firmly in educational programmes whereas Disney is soon to switch to more story-based shows. The article makes it out like the two are locked in an epic battle for eyeballs that have absolutely zero purchasing power. Although that is not telling the full story, is it?

Of course not. it’s made quite clear that parents are the real ones being courted. Yes, there are the Jesuit ideals at work (get them young and they’re customers for life) but the networks seem to be pandering to parent’s wants even more. As is pointed out, there has been a shift in what parents desire for their kids. A decade ago, they wanted them to be well educated, now they want them to be happy.

What I think is that as parents, they should be spending more time with their kids! Why? Well, the programming may have a lot of educational content, but as pointed out in the article, the top advertisers during said programmes are the fast food and toy companies. Now there is nothing wrong with that, per se, however knowing how much TV kids in the US seem to watch, it can’t be a good thing.

Something that I admit kind of floored me was that 40% of Nick Jr’s viewers watch between 8-11p.m. What the #$%^(*&? When I was that age, I was lucky to stay up past 8, let alone up to 11!

I am not trying to disparage the idea of educational, pre-school TV shows, I did after all, watch Sesame Street religiously for years until I went to school.However, I also watched plenty of Postman Pat and Thomas the Tank Engine too. The point is that I enjoyed a good mix of programming, it wasn’t skewed heavily in either direction.

On the other side of the fence are the networks, who will come up with the relevant facts to prove that their content is beneficial, such as this from the article.

“Jake and the Never Land Pirates,” a new series launching in February, follows a group of kids who get into adventures with Captain Hook. Even though Hook is a bad guy, Jake still invites him to play at the end of the episodes, an important social lesson, Disney says.

Yeah right. From my own recollection, kids on the playground will heed their peers when it comes to including and excluding other kids from play. I did it and I was on the receiving end of it too and all the time I don’t recall using what I saw on the TV as a guide as to my behaviour.

Well, I take that back. once I told another kid to “get lost” as in an Oscar the Grouch way and man, did I get hauled up to the teachers desk, from where I had to make a very, very public apology to the entire class. I learned my lesson after that experience!

What worries me most is that the whole point and benefits of pre-school programming will be lost in the scramble to win parent’s affections and dollars. Responsibility for a child’s upbringing should rest with the parents. Networks are in the unenviable position of having to balance the need for high-quality programming with the need for earnings from advertisers. So far they’ve done relatively well. Should a war break out, we all know who will suffer the most.